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Thumbnail of Baron Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Fourier (source)
Baron Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Fourier
(21 Mar 1768 - 16 May 1830)

French mathematician, Egyptologist and administrator who made many contributions to mathematical physics, and is remembered for the Fourier series.

Glossary for article - Joseph Fourier - Biography: Politician & Scientist


The Popular Society in Auxerre: This was definitely a sans-cullotte (verging on Hébertist) society - before Fourier joined them a group of its activists had called for the trial (and by implication execution) of the King. The Hébertists were the Jacobin club to which Marat belonged.

Myxedema: Also known as hypothyroidism.

Gautherot: Amongst them was one of the leaders of the Auxerre Popular Society, Gautherot. A man known later as one of the artists in David`s atelier. There are only three pictures of Fourier in existence: one sketch by Bouilly; a sketch by Gautherot and a painting which has been credited to Gautherot.

Connections: He had the opportunity to meet Monge, Lagrange and Laplace.

Rosetta stone: This was when the famed Rosetta stone fell into British hands.

Napoleon's Abdication: After which Fourier had to negotiate terms with an occupying Austrian army.

Lyons: Where the Bourbons had their court.

L'Institut de France: In 1816, the Académie was still called the Institut de France: it changed shortly after Fourier`s royal rejection.

White Terror: By this date the "White Terror" which had followed Napoleon`s final exile, hounding anyone with radical or Jacobin tendencies, had died down, so that his entry was on merit.

Heat Loss: Each point along the bar receives heat from points preceding it and loses heat to those after it and to the surrounding air.

Réamur scale: In this scale 0 was the temperature of melting ice; 1 was the temperature of water boiling at a certain pressure and in a certain vessel.

Prize Judges: All of whom he knew: Malus and Haüy from Egypt; and the others from the École Polytechique. Malus was a member of Laplace`s influential Société d`Arcueil and Haüy was associated many of that society`s members. Laplace was in place to overrule any objections which Lagrange might put forward.

Judges' comment:

... cette pièce renferme les véritables équations différentielles de la transmission de la chaleur, soit à l`intérieur des corps, soit à leur surface: et la nouveauté du sujet, jointé à son importance, a déterminé la Classe à couronner cet Ouvrage, en observant cependant que la manière dont l`Auteur parvient à ses équations n`est pas exempte de difficultés, et que son analyse, pour les intégrer, laisse encore quelque chose à desirer, soit relativement à la généralité, soit mêmê du côté de la rigueur.

Definite Integrals: It was Fourier who first used the definite integral notation as we know it.

From a now long-dead link ( To preserve the article, it is here reproduced with the kind permission of the author, David Keston.

See also:
  • Science Quotes by Baron Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Fourier.
  • 21 Mar - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Fourier's birth.
  • Joseph Fourier - Biography: Politician & Scientist
  • Joseph Fourier - eBibliography for Biography: Politician & Scientist

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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